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Miami-Dade County Dolphins Stadium Improvement & Modernization Question (May 2013)

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A Miami-Dade County Dolphins Stadium Improvement & Modernization proposal was going to be on the May 14, 2013, election ballot in Miami-Dade County, which is in Florida.

As part of the agreement for the public funding of the Sun Life Stadium renovations, the Florida state legislature needed to approve a supporting bill. But since the legislative session ended on May 3rd without the Florida House law makers voting on the bill, the ballot measure election has been cancelled even though the election is already underway and many early ballots have already been cast.[1]

According to the Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, the Dolphins have canceled all stadium renovations since they are unwilling to go forward without public funding and support.[2]

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Dolphins owner Stephen Ross expressed bitter disappointment about the cancellation of the election. He blamed House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-38), saying, "The speaker singlehandedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami-Dade and for all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami-Dade and that is just wrong." Ross went on to say, "He gave me and many others his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the House for a vote, where I know, and he knows, we had the votes to win by a margin as large as we did in the Senate. It’s hard to understand why he would stop an election already in process and disenfranchise the 40,000 people who have already voted. I can only assume he felt it was in his political interest to do so. Time will tell if that is the case, but I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come."

Weatherford denied that he had promised anyone that this bill would receive a vote on the House floor.[1]

If the election had happened and the measure had been approved, it would have authorized the Miami-Dade County to increase the local hotel tax from 6% to 7%, allowing for $7.5 million a year to be put into improving and modernizing the Sun Life Stadium under the following conditions:

• Dolphins remaining long-term in County;
• Private funding for majority of costs;
• Stadium owners paying County at least 112,000,000 dollars in 30 years;
• Stadium owners paying penalties up to 120,000,000 dollars for not bringing premier football and soccer events to stadium; and
• Award, in May 2013, of Super Bowl.[3][4]

Stephen Ross, the owner of the Dolphins team, has agreed to pay $4,784,337 to provide the costs of having this special referendum election.[5]

Approval of this measure will open the door for $400 million rennovations of the stadium to begin and gives hope for the Sun Life stadium to be chosen as host of the 50th Super Bowl game.[6]

Text of measure

Sun Life Stadium Coast Guard flyover.JPG

Language on the ballot:

Resolution 279-13 proposes using 7,500,000 dollars a year, adjusted annually for growth, from additional tourist room taxes to be levied to modernize stadium conditioned on:

• Dolphins remaining long-term in County;
• Private funding for majority of costs;
• Stadium owners paying County at least 112,000,000 dollars in 30 years;
• Stadium owners paying penalties up to 120,000,000 dollars for not bringing premier football and soccer events to stadium; and
• Award, in May 2013, of Super Bowl.

For the proposed use

Against the proposed use[3][7]


Stephen Ross, owner of the Dolphins team, and Dolphin respresentatives argue that the renovations paid for by the approval of this measure and the increased hotel tax are essential for keeping the Sun Life stadium attractive for high profile teams and large events, such as the Superbowl, which they hope to see held in Miami-Dade in 2016.[8]

Academic studies

Touchdowns and Fumbles: Urban Investments in NFL Franchises. Ostrosky, T. and Turco, D., The Cyber Journal of Sport Marketing, 1997.

  • Supporters state that people will spend their money near the stadium or arena and this will boost the economy, shifting dollars towards urban areas that have a stagnant economic base.
  • Stadium investment ventures/enterprises generate millions of dollars in development to areas where urban blight has been allowed to fester for years.

Professional Sports Facilities, Franchises and Urban Economic Development, 1999.

  • The study found an average increase in wages in the hotels and other lodgings sector($10 per worker year).[5]


Those who oppose this measure argue that the improvement of the stadium of a privately owned sports team seeking to make a profit is not a good use of public dollars. Glenn Milberg of Local 10 asked this of Nat Moore, representative of the Dolphins:"If Stephen Ross doesn't think it's a good investment personally, how would he explain it as a good investment to the public?"

Moore responded by saying, "I think if he didn't think it was a good investment personally, he wouldn't be willing to put up more than $200 million."

Academic studies

Research & Commentary: Subsidizing Sports Stadiums.John Nothdurft (Heartland Institute) February 2010

  • Since the 1990s, the building of new sports stadiums has increasingly relied on taxpayer funds, with subsidies growing from just a few million dollars in tax exemptions to unabashed corporate welfare in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Team owners now effectively hold cities and states under siege by threatening to move their teams, creating bidding wars to get as much government money as possible.
  • Claims that taxpayer‐funded stadiums recoup their costs and more in the form of economic development are dismissed by respected economists. A July 2007 article from Reason Public Policy Institute researchers Samuel Staley and Leonard Gilroy notes, "More than 20 years of academic research has failed to find a significant relationship between an investment in a sports stadium and significant job or income growth."
  • Tourism taxes have become the popular choice for elected officials hoping to raise revenue for stadiums. But hiking taxes on hotels,restaurants, airline flights, car rentals, and other hospitality‐related businesses makes those businesses less competitive with those in other cities, suppressing economic growth and tax revenue. A new NFL stadium may bring additional visitors during the few home game weekends, but the rest of the year local businesses are burdened with higher tax rates without the increased consumer traffic.
  • Far too many politicians see hospitality taxes as an easy way to tap additional revenues from non voting visitors while avoiding backlash from their own constituents. Such tax hikes, however, do in fact fall on local residents directly and in the form of lower wages and the burden of decreased economic activity in their communities during the off‐season.[5]

Sports, Jobs and Taxes: Are Stadiums Worth the Cost. Zimbalist, A. and Noil, R.G., The Brookings Institution, 1997

  • Sports teams and facilities are not a source of local economic growth and employment subsidies far exceed the financial benefit of a new stadium to a team. An imbalance of power exists in negotiations between professional sports and the host cities to subsidize the franchise or stadiums.
  • Industry experts estimate that $7 billion will be spent on new facilities before 2006 and most of the $7 billion will come from public sources or from tax exempt bonds.
  • Annual federal tax loss exceeding $1 million from ten facilities built in the 1970 and 1980’s resulting from tax exempt bonds to help finance sports facilities.
  • The most successful new baseball stadium; Oriole Park at Camden Yards still costs Maryland residents $14 million per year.
  • A stadium can spur economic growth if sports is a significant export industry – that is, if it attracts outsiders to buy the local project and if it results in the sale of certain rights (broadcasting, product licensing) to national firms. However, in reality, sports have little effect on regional net exports.
  • Most spending inside a stadium is a substitute for other local recreational spending, such as movies and restaurants. Similarly, most tax collections inside a stadium are substitutes: as other entertainment businesses decline, tax collections from them fall.
  • Most stadium employees work part time at very low wages and earn a small fraction of team revenues.[5]

See also

External links